Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to school? Tips for keeping your family healthy!

With kids — and adults! — heading back to school, now is a perfect time to start getting ready for flu season. Here are the top six things you can do to keep you and your family healthy this fall:

1. Get your flu shot as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a seasonal flu shot every year. This year, the flu shot covers two new strains of the flu, which means that last year’s shot won’t cover you for the types of flu that are predicted to be most common this fall. If you don’t know where to go to get your flu shot, check out HealthMap’s Vaccine Finder to find a location near you!

2. Make sure your children are up to date on their other shots. Your child’s school will provide you with a list of required vaccinations that is based on CDC immunization schedules for children and teens.

Childhood vaccinations are especially important this year because the U.S. is experiencing large outbreaks of diseases that can normally be prevented with vaccines. For example, 46 states have reported higher than average cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in 2012. Pertussis is a serious disease that can be deadly, especially for young children.

3. Make sure you are also up to date on your shots. Did you know that adults sometimes need booster shots, too? For example, the Tdap vaccine is a common adult booster shot that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. It’s recommended that adults get one Tdap booster, especially if they will be around newborn babies or if it’s been more than 10 years since their last booster shot.

If you’re not sure if your immunizations are up to date, you should talk to your health care provider. CDC also has a vaccine quiz that can help you figure out what shots you might need to get.

4. Practice good hand hygiene — and teach your family to do the same. We have lots of great fact sheets about hand-washing for children and adults!

5. Stay home if you are sick. If you have children, make a plan for how you’d care for them if they have to stay home from school.

6. Sign up for Flu Near You. Do you know that APHA is partnering on a cool flu reporting tool that lets you detect and report symptoms of flu? All you have to do is sign up at, and once a week you’ll get an email that asks, “How are you feeling?” After you fill out a 10-second survey about your symptoms, you will see a map of your area that shows if people around you have flu-like illness. This is a great way to be a disease detective and learn about flu in your community.

What steps are you taking to keep you and your family healthy this year? Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments!

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